Calgary is known for its association with the oil industry. Many of the high rise buildings in the city are occupied by oil workers. Its central public library is a destination for 120,000 people who drive to Calgary to work every day. But, similar to other downtown libraries, it does not currently serve any specific community. Maybe this will change when the central library moves from its current location on 7th Avenue to East Village – an area that is currently being regenerated. Calgary is getting a new central library, designed by Snohetta and DIALOG, which will be completed in 2018.
To compliment this new development, Bill Ptacek, Calgary Public Library CEO, has agreed to fund the refurbishment of most (if not) of Calgary’s branch libraries. This is to ensure CPL patrons have a decent community spaces in which to study, work and play – as well as a new central library to visit in East Village. As part of this refurbishment, one of the areas library workers are focusing on is the lighting. Many of the branch libraries are badly lit, with poor artificial lighting, and few windows.
Many of the people I have spoken to have commented on the quality of the lighting in their library. Associate Director at James B. Hunt Jr. Library at North Carolina State University stated that lighting is one of the most important design features to consider in a library. When designing the Hunt Library, he had worked with the architects, Snohetta and DEWG, to ensure that the lighting was as effective for the students. Lighting also creates atmosphere, so it is a way of providing students with different working environments, without changing the tables and chairs. Indeed, Hunt Library has a range of general, task, and ambient lighting to create different atmospheres. And, of course, the building was designed to maximise the amount of daylight entering the space that students can enjoy on all floors.
In Calgary, the library workers I spent time with have begun to add LED strip lighting to the shelves. This is a way of illuminating the book spines so that patrons can see them but it also a way of generally make the books appear more attractive. The strip lighting draws your eye to the title on the shelf… and like any good marketing technique it lures you in. Elsewhere, the library workers have replaced ineffective lamps in the high ceilings with LED lights that drop into the space adding a permanent glow over the reading areas. Patrons have yet to get used to some of these light fittings as they are unexpectedly bright – albeit very effective.
According to the library workers I have met over the last few weeks, left to their own devices, architects continue to prioritise form over function when it comes to lighting. This is a real problem in spaces which are designed to prioritise function over form - such as libraries.